Listed as one of the top 10 most anticipated books of 2020 by Goodreads members, American Dirt, by Jeanine Cummins tells the fictional story of Lydia and Luca, a mother and her young son, as they flee from Acapulco Mexico and attempt to cross the US border. Lydia’s journalist husband, Sebastian, publishes an expose about Javier, the head of the drug cartel, which causes all 16 members of their family to be brutally killed. Lydia is acquainted with Javier through her bookstore and knows she and her son were also supposed to die with the rest of her family. As Lydia and Luca journey north to escape the drug cartel’s revenge, they encounter many hardships and meet other migrants fleeing dangerous situations in their lives too.
Even though this is a work of fiction, American Dirt reads as a story that could truly happen today. As a reader, one can tell that Jeanine Cummins thoroughly researched migration of those traveling in Mexico as they try to reach the border and cross with a coyote into the US illegally. The migrants travel by foot, hidden in vans, and on the tops of trains. The descriptions of the travel are so life-like, I felt as if I was right there, traveling with Lydia and Luca. The depth of character development was substantial and made me care about each traveler. Each character’s backstory helped establish empathy for their past, present, and future circumstances. American Dirt is a must-read for 2020; a book you will remember and carry with you in light of the situation at our southern border today.